Ray Jackendoff

Photo of Ray Jackendoff
Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy, Tufts University

How is meaning expressed in natural language and how is it related to the human conceptual system? How is meaning expressed linguistically? Addressing such questions in his research, Ray Jackendoff examines the human conceptual system. His research is focused on integrating analysis of language with the functioning of the mind and general principles of cognition.

One of the world's most respected linguists, Professor Jackendoff is the Seth Merrin Professor of Philosophy and Co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is also Professor Emeritus and former Chair of Linguistics and Cognitive Studies at Brandeis University. Ray Jackendoff earned his PhD in linguistics from MIT in 1969, under the guidance of Noam Chomsky.

Professor Jackendoff has developed a theory of consciousness and has written several books on the relationship between mind, language, and consciousness. His vast scholarship includes monographs such as A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (with Fred Lerdahl, MIT Press 1982), Semantics and Cognition (MIT Press 1983), Consciousness and the Computational Mind (Bradford/MIT Press1987), The Architecture of the Language Faculty (MIT Press1997), Language, Consciousness, Culture (MIT Press 2007), and Meaning and the Lexicon (Oxford University Press 2010).

An early advocate of integrating the vision faculty into an account of meaning and language, Professor Jackendoff's work has been ground-breaking in many respects. His focus on the conceptual system has led him to an innovative account of language and mind embodied in his theory of Conceptual Semantics and the architecture of the human language faculty. In his approach, Jackendoff addresses the conceptualization of space, the relationship between language, perception, and consciousness, and the conceptualization of social concepts such as value, morality, fairness, and obligation. This work has developed into a comprehensive theory on the foundations of language.

Not only is Professor Jackendoff an outstanding scholar, but he is also an excellent musician -- a clarinetist who performs frequently in the Boston area. He has performed as a featured soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra (1980) and has recorded Romanian Music for Clarinet and Piano (Albany Records 2003). His musical interests have led him to develop a theory of musical cognition similar to the theory of generative linguistics.

Professor Jackendoff has been recognized all over the world for his contributions to multiple disciplines. Among other awards, he has received the 1974 Gustave Arlt Award in the Humanities for his book Semantic Interpretation in Generative Grammar and the Jean Nicod Prize in Cognitive Philosophy (Institut Jean Nicod, Paris 2003), and several distinguished fellowships, including a Guggenheim and NEH. In addition, he has served as President of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (1991) as well as of the Linguistic Society of America (2003). Professor Jackendoff has been a Fellow both of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1999) and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2000). He has also given numerous invited lectures in the US and abroad.